The Year of the Rabbit
This is the year of the rabbit. That is if you celebrate the Chinese calendar, that traditionally associates an animal with the lunar observance. (In Vietnam, it’s the year of the cat.) The New Year event is usually celebrated for multiple days—not just one day as in the Gregorian calendar.
This year the lunar New Year began on January 22. The ancient event calls for the celebration of various deities and ancestors as well as hopes for a good harvest. Special foods and family visits highlight the observance. Traditionally, there was some housecleaning involved to remove any unwanted spirits that might be lurking around the house.
Definitely a Group Activity
Because I’m always looking for an excuse to enjoy a food event, we decided to make jiaozi from a New York Times recipe, that Robin had been saving. This seemed like the appropriate time to give it a try. I’ve not made those little pockets of meaty goodness since the 1980s, when a visiting Chinese professor, that we “adopted” during his stay, showed us how it was done.
Assembly Line Dumplings
You may have seen dumplings, jiaozi, (a.k.a. gyoza) or pot stickers on an Asian menu. They’re all a form of meat/vegetable dumpling, but differ in size, texture, content, and thickness. The wrappers can be store bought or homemade with flour and water. We made both versions and the DIY ones were definitely better.
The Name’s the Thing
Dumplings: A generic term for these stuffed dough creations. I have a special fondness for the ones served at Soup Dumpling on Olive.
Jiaozi and Gyoza: Jiaozi is the name for the ancient Chinese dumpling; Gyoza is a very similar Japanese version. They can be boiled, steamed, or pan fried (but, on one side only). For professional gyoza, there’s none better than Chef Nick Bognar’s at Nippon Tei (soon to be on The Hill as Sado.)
Pot Stickers: A bit larger than a jiaozi. They’re cooked in the same “fry-steam-fry” sequence, but the thinner skin is crisper with more focus on the filling. Much like St. Louis toasted ravioli, pot stickers were a cooking mistake. The chef walked away from the pieces boiling in a wok and they stuck to the pan and crisped up. Pot stickers were born.
On to Valentine’s Day
Having duly celebrated the New Year, I’m looking forward to the next holiday. That would be Valentine’s Day. But there doesn’t seem to a special food associated with it—unless you count the candy hearts with the cute messages. Or, better yet, chocolate-covered strawberries, especially the ones from Merb’s on Grand.